What Happened: IT

Friday, December 15, 2006 1:51 pm. Well really, my subject is IT and software development, since their fates seem inextricably linked. ... In theory, IT denotes the self-denying dedicated drones who serve the servers, as opposed to the talented and skilled prima-donnas who write programs that, mostly, run on the things — but what the heck, who can tell the difference? ... Anyway, to summarize: all the money showed-up in the late 90s with the dot-com bubble, and disappeared afterwards — basically, never to return, despite all the happy-talk in the few pitiful remaining magazines. ... My own humble delvings have never been in IT, although to some extent the money washed-over us all, but I do wonder: what happened? ... Where’d it all go?

Plumbing

Dr. Dobbs, one of the pitiful remaining computer magazines, has a “developer profile” or something feature, and this month all three entries were, basically, people who facilitated business relations to web thingeys, most obviously a guy who sells an amazon store set-up for your web-site — but they were all products which had a software component, but were, basically, plumbing. ... And after all, this was prophesied, by the exact slimey kind of software gurus I despise, with all the yammer about “components” and “libraries” — always presented, to be sure, as a tremendous advantage to the programmer, i.e. build your programs faster easier simpler — but, of course, the programmer is merely the employee of the business, and Mr. Businessman seized on the obvious and, what with one financial reversal and another, did his level best to cut-out the middleman and eliminate those squshy human beings between his business and all these valuable labor-saving components....

IT Charm

And I think it’s fair to say that for this decade, at least, IT employees have been some of the most despised people in the bustling business world, and this probably had something to do with their precipitous decline. ... The LOL points out that people used to hate accountants, but who cares anymore, what with the “big 8” reduced to an ever-bankrupting smaller number. ... No, the spite once reserved for accountants moved on to the now bedraggled and diminishing IT hordes and their stupid jokes about “lusers” — i.e. the hapless twits who try to “use” software — and how lusers think the CD tray is for their coffee cup (yuck yuck) — I actually saw that canard in one of the edrivel mags recently, where the flag of IT arrogance still flies high....

... And it’s doubly funny, because the accountants’ downfall was executed largely by the cheap computers that replaced them, manned of course by IT wonks — but only, it seems, for a little while. ... Now, presumably, the computers run themselves. ... Which isn’t surprising; after all, when motorcars were new, everyone had a personal mechanic, but now the things just run themselves also, and even the scammy garage is passing into history as Americans buy replacement cars every few years....

Cheerful Conclusion

So there’s your picture: the software developer/IT worker’s going the way of the dodo. ... I believe the fate of the embedded system engineer — moi, more-or-less — while entangled with IT, is different: the products themselves have moved overseas, and naturally to the cheaper engineers presumably available there. ... But the same trends are at work; there are numerous packages and short-cuts available for cellular phones for instance, and it’s only a matter of time before the things are contrived in a cookie-cutter way with price-points and features dialed-in — as I note elsewhere, outsourcing often is just the prelude to obsolescence. ... And every generation imagines the complexity of their new technology will always require its high priests ... and every generation is wrong....